Food and drink made out of cacao beans, the source of cocoa, have been around since pre-Columbian Mexico, and Europeans adopted a cocoa drink as early as the 1500s, but the first edible solid chocolate wasn't invented until the mid-19th Century. Chocolate really gained popularity in the early 1900s, when family-owned companies like Hershey, Cadbury, and Mars brought the candy into the mainstream. Today, chocolate is big business, with the global chocolate market expected to reach $98.3 billion by 2016, according to research firm Markets and Markets.
Though most chocolate consumed is mass-produced, there's a good number of small chocolatiers who prefer to craft their goodies by hand from the finest sourced materials. Made without preservatives or chemicals, these are time-consuming to make and perishable, but the taste and richness are well worth the dedication and expense.
South Florida is home to some master chocolatiers, with many of them using recipes handed down over generations and making their confections by hand.